As part of our media partnership with NOS Energy Drink, I was able to spend some time with the NOS rally team at the X Games last weekend. As I mentioned earlier, this was my first rally event so it was eye-opening to get a first hand look at what goes on behind the scenes during one of these events.
Like most of the other NOS-sponsored machines, the car is a Mitsubishi Evolution. An AMS-powered Evo IX to be exact. Up until this point I thought drifting was a pretty tough sport on vehicles, but the abuse a drift car gets is nothing compared to a rally car.
The pilot of the car is Toronto-based Andrew Comrie-Picard AKA "ACP". His name should be a familiar one to rally fans as he's a veteran in the North American rally scene, and also a full-time auto journalist and precision driver. Sounds like a nice life…
On Friday morning ACP fired the car up for the qualifying session on the tarmac course. The unforgiving course had already claimed several cars, but ACP was able to sail through with a 58.58 second lap time – earning him a well-positioned spot for Sunday's main competition.
Following qualifying, the car returned to the Team NOS pit for some adjustments. For Sunday, the venue would be expanded to add the dirt course inside the Home Depot Center and its infamous jump. Fresh in everyone's mind was the front flip that happened when ACP attempted the jump last year.
On Sunday the drama started early for the NOS team. While taking the jump during a morning practice run, the car landed nose first – causing significant damage to the skid plate and front end. With less than an hour to go before eliminations began, the car was rushed back to the pits for some emergency repairs.
With the clock ticking away, the guys jumped into action. Things were
frantic as they rushed to get the car back into shape for the
competition – which was due to start shortly.
I'm not sure if I I've ever seen a car repaired faster…
Finally, the skid plate was replaced and the bumper was reattached. There were just a few minutes left before the car had to be back in the Home Depot Center.
As ACP drove the car back towards the stadium, the horn was used heavily to clear lingering spectators out of the way. Eventually, the car made it to the grid just in time.
ACP's first opponent was Arkadiusz Gruszka ,a fellow Evo driver. Halfway through the race ACP had built significant lead over his opponent, but still had to cross the ever-dangerous gap in the Home Depot Center…
The car caught a tremendous amount of air as it cleared the jump. Here's ACP as he descends from his flight…
…and another hard nose-first landing. Ouch.
ACP and Team NOS had won the match, but again the Evo was in bad need of repair. There wasn't much time until the next round of competition began.
After more quick repairs, the car was ready to go for its quarterfinal match against Travis Pastrana. How would it hold up this time?
Pastrana took an early lead, but ACP had begun to close the gap in the tarmac section outside of the stadium. Unfortunately though, he pushed it a little too much and made contact with the water barriers. The difference in time would be impossible to make up in the remaining seconds of the race.
And so, Team NOS and ACP's run was over in the quarterfinals. It had been an eventful weekend, and one that's given me a newfound appreciation for not just rally drivers, but for the guys behind the scenes that keep these filthy beasts track-worthy.
Big thanks to Team NOS for their hospitality over the weekend!